Atlanta Falcons breakout candidates: Kaleb McGary

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The fifth breakout candidate I’ll be discussing is a second-year right tackle that many were surprised the Falcons moved up for in the first round. But despite missing nearly all of training camp because of a minor heart procedure, he was able to start in every game. However, the results were mixed. The Falcons are hoping for a giant step forward in year two, which will help solidify what was a lackluster offensive line again in 2019.

Kaleb McGary

Many draft experts projected that McGary would go in the third round or later, but like the Falcons have shown time and time again, they ignored the outside noise and traded up into the first round to snag him. The decision gave Atlanta an entirely new right side of the line after they selected Chris Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick hours earlier. The expectation was that Matt Ryan would finally have some protection — like he did in 2016 — when he broke multiple records, as the Falcons put together one of the most explosive offenses of all time. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition… at least, not yet.

Before Chris Lindstrom could even begin to make an impact, he was on IR, breaking his foot in Week 1. That was a gut-punch to start the season to go along with a Vikings 28-12 throttling. McGary was left to pick up the pieces on the right side of the line, and he didn’t have much help from Jamon Brown, who was awful as Lindstrom’s replacement.

At times, McGary looked like he could become a well-above-average starting right tackle, like when the Falcons played in New Orleans, as he locked up Cameron Jordan — a top-five pass-rusher in the league — for sixty minutes. But then just a couple of weeks later, against the same opponent, he looked like Devonta Freeman on Donte Hightower in the Super Bowl (too soon?), unable to provide any resistance and leaving Matt Ryan out to dry.

On the year, McGary surrendered 13 sacks, which is way too many for an offense to be consistently successful. He also graded out as the 34th best right tackle out of 38, according to Pro Football Focus, showing just how far he has left to go. For McGary, a breakout doesn’t mean him shooting into the top ten at his position, but if he can jump up to league average, this Falcons offense is going to be significantly better than it was last season, which is scary to think about for opponents.

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